Forced Separation: How Israel’s Permit Regime Separates Children undergoing Medical Treatment from their Parents

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Our new position paper exposes how Israel’s permit regime separates between parents and children from Gaza who need medical treatment that is unavailable to them locally.

The figures PHRI has collected show that more than half the applications filed in 2018 by parents to accompany their minor children for medical treatment were rejected. Although there has been a significant increase in the number of approved applications in 2019, over the past year too, about a fifth of the children who left Gaza for medical treatment, went without their parents.

While there is recognition in Israel that parental presence during a child’s medical treatment is important for the child’s recovery, when it comes to Palestinian children, things are not so. This policy hurts the children’s recovery prospects and forces them to live through the most difficult and painful moments without a parent to reassure them and give them hope, emotional support and attention. The children often do not speak the language and have difficulties communicating with the medical staff, which increases the uncertainty, anxiety and fear that are already part of this situation.

In the past few years, we have handled dozens of requests from parents whose applications to accompany children for medical treatment were denied. These cases included a four-year-old boy with cancer who needed chemotherapy; a three-year-old girl who had swallowed acid and was referred for treatment in a-Najah Hospital in Nablus and a four-year-old girl who was born with a spinal hernia and was referred for treatment at al-Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem.

Our work on these requests reveals that the cause for the significant difference in the number of permits granted to children and those granted to parents is the long processing times for parental accompaniment permit applications. Consequently, parents often have to send their children with other relatives or with strangers.

Separating children from their parents in such critical moments, some of these children are fighting for their lives, is not just cruel and immoral, but it is also extremely detrimental to their mental health and to their recovery. The Israeli authorities must, always, allow parents to travel with their children.